June 1, 2021  |  

Beyond Contiguity: Evaluating the accuracy of de novo genome assemblies

HiFi reads (>99% accurate, 15-20 kb) from the PacBio Sequel II System consistently provide complete and contiguous genome assemblies. In addition to completeness and contiguity, accuracy is of critical importance, as assembly errors complicate downstream analysis, particularly by disrupting gene frames. Metrics used to assess assembly accuracy include: 1) in-frame gene count, 2) kmer consistency, and 3) concordance to a benchmark, where discordances are interpreted as assembly errors. Genome in a Bottle (GIAB) provides a benchmark for the human genome with estimated accuracy of 99.9999% (Q60). Concordance for human HiFi assemblies exceeds Q50, which provides excellent genomes for downstream analysis, but presents a challenge that any new benchmark must significantly exceed Q50 or the discordance will represent the error rate of the benchmark. To establish benchmarks for Oryza sativa and Drosophila melanogaster, we collected draft references, Illumina short reads, and PacBio HiFi reads. By species, the benchmark was defined as regions of normal coverage that are not within 5 bp of a small variant or 50 bp of a structural variant. For both species, the benchmark regions span around 60% of the genome and HiFi assemblies achieve Q50 accuracy, which is notably more accurate than assemblies with other technologies and meets typical standards for a finished, reference-grade assembly. Here we present a protocol to generate benchmarks for any sample that rival the GIAB benchmark in accuracy. These benchmarks allow the comparison and improvement of genome assemblies and highlight the superior accuracy of assemblies generated with PacBio HiFi reads.


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